How to Restore Convertible Tops in Muscle Cars

If one of the main functions of an interior is to make your muscle car more comfortable to drive, then you cannot ignore the convertible muscle car and its top mechanism. After all, a muscle car with a convertible top that lets in rain, wind, and noise when in the up position doesn’t exactly rate high for comfort.

 


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But face it, if you’re lucky enough to own a convertible muscle car, you rarely look up to check out how it’s put together. Likely the most attention you pay to it comes when you make sure it folded correctly and without bunching when putting it down; otherwise, until it becomes ragged or torn, you don’t give it a second thought.

This is probably why most convertible muscle car owners have absolutely no clue what goes into replacing a top when it does become ragged or torn. They think of a complicated mess of framework and cables, when in fact most muscle cars are far simpler than expected.

 

Some people feel a bit intimidated when it comes to replacing their convertible top, what with all the cables and braces and mechanisms. Take, for instance, this 1967 Firebird. After 40 years, the vinyl top material had become wrinkled and dingy, and the plastic rear window had become yellowed and hazy.

Some people feel a bit intimidated when it comes to replacing their convertible top, what with all the cables and braces and mechanisms. Take, for instance, this 1967 Firebird. After 40 years, the vinyl top material had become wrinkled and dingy, and the plastic rear window had become yellowed and hazy.

 

We’ll replace the vinyl top and plastic rear window with a new Haartz cloth top and actual glass rear window. Both the Haartz cloth and the glass window will hold up better to wind, sun, and rain than the original materials, though the installation process is the same for whatever materials you use.

We’ll replace the vinyl top and plastic rear window with a new Haartz cloth top and actual glass rear window. Both the Haartz cloth and the glass window will hold up better to wind, sun, and rain than the original materials, though the installation process is the same for whatever materials you use.

 

To find out how simple, we replaced the convertible top on a 1967 Firebird. The old white top, while not trashed, certainly did not complement the new paint and interior planned for the Firebird. The owner decided to replace the stock pinpoint vinyl top—fitted with a hazy plastic window—with a new, black Haartz cloth top with a glass window.

Haartz cloth is found mostly on newer, more expensive convertibles. It actually holds up better to rain and sun than pinpoint vinyl, though it is somewhat harder to keep clean, especially in white, and can’t be dyed as easily as pinpoint vinyl. Glass rear windows are often hinged like the one in this top to fit in the car’s original well when folded. Glass offers the advantage of a clearer window that won’t yellow over time. Obviously, neither a Haartz top nor a glass window are considered correct for most muscle cars, and both represent more costly restoration options, but both will add to the resale value of a customized or otherwise nonoriginal muscle car.

The installation process remains the same, regardless of the top material or type of back window.

Disassembly

As discussed in Chapter 1, it’s important to decide when in the restoration time line to perform certain tasks. Ideally, convertible top replacement should take place before the installation of the seats and carpet, to permit total access to the convertible top frame. But it should happen after the car has been painted, sanded, and buffed, so sanding dust does not blow onto the top, particularly important for a Haartz cloth top.

Before starting the top disassembly, determine whether the bows or the motors for the power top system require any restoration or refinishing. It’s important to have a functioning power top system for the top replacement process, so the system must be in good working order. This particular Firebird already had a perfectly functioning top and perfectly shaped bows that didn’t require restoration, so the framework and actuators all remained, as did the battery (hooked up to a battery charger) to put the top up and down as required.

We laid out the new replacement top, ordered from ARO 2000 in Walden, New York, on a clean surface to make sure it included all the necessary pieces. A lot of people make the mistake of ordering just the top, even though the entire convertible top assembly consists of more than just the top material. If you’re replacing the top material, you should replace everything associated with the entire assembly, including the pads, the well liner, and, if necessary, the tack strips.

Disassembly

Step-1: Disassembly

1Disassembly begins by removing the screwed-in metal brace under the first bow behind the header. Plan to install your convertible top before your seats and carpet so you can have total access to the top, as we did here. Also, if it’s a power top, leave the power mechanisms in place to make it easier to raise and lower the top while working on it.

 

 

 

 

Step-2: Disassembly

2Disassembly next moves to the pieces of weather stripping on the sides of the top, held in by screws. Here we’re about to remove a piece from the driver’s side. Most restoration companies specific to your car should have reproductions available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step-3: Disassembly

3Next, the weather stripping at the leading edge of the header was pried away from the header carefully, so as not to damage the push-in clips that kept it in place.

 

 

 

 

 

Step-4: Disassembly

4Using a staple remover, we carefully removed each individual staple holding the leading edge of the top to the header. Don’t just yank the top material from the header—doing so may damage the tack strip and may leave behind fragments of the staples, which will still need to be removed before the installation of the new top material.

 

 

 

Step-5: Disassembly

5We started to separate the top material from the top frame, noting as we did where the top material was secured by staples and where it was secured by other means.

 

 

 

 

Step-6: Disassembly

6This photo shows the tack strip in the header, into which the staples were shot, thus securing the top material. Not all of the staples came out whole with the staple remover—40 years can cause a staple to become rather weak—so we removed the remnants of the broken staples with side cutters or pliers.

 

 

 

Step-7: Disassembly

7The wire-on comes off next. Its ends are held down by small metal trim pieces, which are easily unscrewed. The wire-on itself is held to the rear bow by staples.

 

 

 

 

Step-8: Disassembly

8Next, we unbolted the rear rail from the body. Several pieces of the top were stapled to this rear rail and could not be removed from the rail without first removing the rail from the body.

 

 

 

 

Step-9: Disassembly

9The pieces that were stapled to the rail were also stapled to the rearmost bow underneath the top material. If you are replacing the convertible top material and rear window with exact reproductions of the original materials, take note of how the pieces fit together.

 

 

 

Step-10: Disassembly

10Here are the rear rail and all the pieces that attach it to the rear window, the side pieces (similar to the sail panels on a hardtop), and the well liner. It would be easier to separate the rear rail from those pieces off the car, so we moved the assembly to a bench.

 

 

 

Step-11: Disassembly

11The pads that are sandwiched between the top frame and the top material are all that’s left of the top now. At this point, you should probably determine whether you intend to restore the top frame or leave it as is. The owner of this Firebird was fine with leaving it as is.

 

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Another mistake most people make is to just start ripping the top from the frame when, in fact, it should be removed a little more methodically. In this case, the sides of the top material around the window openings are covered by pieces of weather stripping, which need to be unscrewed from the convertible top frame. Another piece of weather stripping that covers the leading edge of the top material should also be removed, exposing a row of staples securing the leading edge of the top material to the header. We removed these staples one-by-one with a special upholsterer’s staple remover; any staples that broke—as 40-year-old staples are wont to do— were removed with a pair of side cutters. These staples go through the top material into a tack strip—a plastic or cork-like compound fitted into the header and top bows—so ripping the top material from the header or top bows can possibly damage the tack strip, which we intend to reuse. We also didn’t want any staples left in the tack strip to eventually cause headaches when we staple the new top material to the old tack strip.

One removable bow, which fits into a pocket in the underside of the top and aids in preventing the top from billowing, must also be removed at this point.

Next, we removed the cosmetic strip from the rearmost bow—the one just above the rear window— which was also held down with staples. At this point, we were ready to unbolt the rear rail, to which the top, the well liner, and the rear window section were stapled. In turn, the rear rail is bolted to the body structure of the Firebird and keeps the entire top assembly anchored.

With the rear rail unbolted, we then removed the staples—again, oneby-one—and separated the rear rail from the top material and from the rear window section. We didn’t entirely remove the well liner material from the rear rail, however. Three pieces made up this particular rear rail, and to keep the three pieces in their original alignment, we left a strip of the well liner stapled to the rail pieces.

The well liner, by the way, loosely hangs between the rear bulkhead— what the rear seat leans back against—and the body structure under the leading edge of the trunk lid. The well liner’s basic job is to protect the top when it’s folded down.

Other than any staples we might have missed, the only thing left to remove were the side cables, which keep tension on the sides of the top and prevent air from blowing under the top and billowing it out. These pass through pockets stitched into the underside of the top and attach to the folding frame with bolts or screws. Over time, the cables can become kinked where they fold with the top and can then damage the top and the pad. So if the new convertible top came with new cables, make sure to replace them at this time.

With the cables removed, we then lifted the old top, rear window, and well liner off the top frame, leaving only the two pads still stapled to the bows.

Fitting New Pads

Though they appear to be a part of the top from the underside, the pads are actually two separate pieces that run nearly the length of the top, from the header to the rearmost bow, but not down to the rail where the top and well are stapled. Their main function is to keep the top from bunching in the hinges and rubbing on the bows, but they also help properly locate the rearmost bow.

Before removing the pads, we measured the height of the rear bow to make sure it sat the correct distance from the panel to which the rear rail bolts, and compared that measurement with what we knew the height should be for a 1967 Firebird—about 221 ⁄2 inches. It’s important to make sure the rear bow remains that distance from the body; otherwise, the top and the rear window will not fit properly.

We then proceeded to remove the staples holding the pads to the bows, noting that one bow used screws to hold down the pads. With the old pads removed, and with the top fully raised and latched, we then laid the new pads across the bows. (One side of the pads should have a pair of flaps that expose the foam backing; this side should face up.) The pads came with more material than needed and we trimmed them to length after we’d secured them to the top bows. We laid the pads with extra material at both the header and the rear bow, then opened the flaps.

Fitting New Pads

Step-1: Fitting New Pads

1With the old pads still in place and the top fully raised, we made sure the rear bow was the correct distance from the body. If it were off at all, the reproduction top, which was designed and stitched around that measurement, would not fit right.

 

 

 

Step-2: Fitting New Pads

2As long as the top was the correct distance from the body, we proceeded with the removal of the pads, which were stapled or screwed to the bows. Note the speaker enclosure toward the bottom of the photo. Now would be a good time to address any issues with that speaker or to add a second speaker.

 

 

Step-3: Fitting New Pads

3The new pads have two slightly overlapping flaps, and we laid them out with the flaps facing upward. We held the rear bow at about the correct height just to make sure we had plenty of material to work with.

 

 

 

Step-4: Fitting New Pads

4Leaving a bit of excess forward of the header, we started stapling the bows—flaps open—to the header. We made sure not to staple them right at the ends of the top bows: too far over and the pads would show from the outside; too far inside and they wouldn’t sufficiently protect the underside of the top material from the top frame.

 

 

Step-5: Fitting New Pads

5With the pads anchored at the header, we held the rear bow at exactly that correct height again, then stapled the pads to the rear bow. Once we set the correct height for the rear bow we stapled the pads to the middle bows.

 

 

 

Step-6: Fitting New Pads

6Next, we glued the flaps closed over the top of the jute, and added a few staples to make doublesure everything stayed put every time the Firebird’s top went up and down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step-7: Fitting New Pads

7The final step for the pads was to trim them to length just before the header and just after the rear bow. We made sure to hold the loose end taut when trimming.

 

 

 

 

Using a staple gun with No. 7 staples, we anchored the pads to the header, making sure they ran parallel to each other and perpendicular to the bows. At the rear bow, we held the bow at the exact height that we measured earlier, then stapled the pads to that bow. Sure that the rear bow was located at the proper height, we then filled in the staples and screws on the middle bows, locating the screw holes with a small awl.

We then took two strips of thin jute padding the width of the pads’ foam backing, and cut them just short of the header and the rear bow. If the jute pads were to go over the header or rear bow, they would make those areas look lumpy, with the top material installed over them. Using contact cement, we glued the jute padding to the pads’ foam backing, glued the pads’ flaps to the topside of the jute padding, and stapled through the entire pad-jute combination at each bow for good measure.

Finally, using a sharp razor blade, we trimmed the excess pad material from forward of the header and aft of the rear bow.

Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

We cleared off a workbench and laid out the well liner, then marked the liner’s centerline at the rear of the liner. While some liners already come with a marked centerline, either with a notch or a chalk line, it’s always a good idea to doublecheck that centerline.

We then spread the liner over the rear rail, matched the liner’s centerline with the centerline of the rear rail, and stapled the liner to the rail. As we stapled, we felt for the bolt holes in the rail, put a thumb over the hole, and stapled on either side of it. Placing a thumb elsewhere not only invites the risk of shooting a staple into a hole, but also of shooting a staple through the hole and into the thumb or a finger on the opposite side. And that hurts.

As long as the liner was stitched to fit loose, matching centerlines was all that was necessary to align the liner to the rail. Aligning the rear window section to the rail required a bit more care, however, to make sure the rear window was not cocked or incorrectly positioned when compared to the car. In addition, it had to be at the right height. If the window was too low, the driver wouldn’t be able to see through it, and if it was too high, the glass would be too close to the rear bow.

The Firebird’s stock plastic window did not have this height problem. From the factory, the window extended from the bolt-in rail up to the rear bow and the opening was defined by the edges of the convertible top itself.

Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

Step-1: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

1Returning to the rear rail, we removed the rear window and the side pieces entirely from the rail, but left a strip of the well liner still attached, cutting away the rest of the liner. Because the rail is made up of three pieces that need to stay in their same relative positions throughout this process, we used that strip of the well liner to keep those three pieces aligned.

Step-2: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

2We stapled the new well liner to the rear rail, making sure to line up the centerline marks for each. Staples every 3 or 4 inches were enough to secure the two.

 

 

Step-3: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

3Before stapling the new rear window section to the rail, we not only aligned the centerline marks of each, but also measured the height of the rear window to make sure either the window or the zipper did not go above the rear bow, and also to make sure the Firebird’s driver would be able to see out of the rear window.

 

 

Step-4: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

4Confident that the rear window was at the right height, we made a chalk mark at the bow to mark that height, and stapled just the center of the rear window piece to the rail, avoiding sending a staple through the bolt holes in the rail.

 

 

Step-5: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

5We measured the height of each lower corner from the rail to make sure they were even, side to side. As long as they were, we put a couple staples into the rear window piece directly below each corner. We then stapled the rear window piece in a couple more places between where we’d already stapled it.

 

 

Step-6: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

6We didn’t want to staple the entire length of the rear window piece to the rail because we first wanted to install the rail, liner, and rear window for a trial fit. We bolted the rail to the body, aligned the rear window piece to the rearmost bow, and marked the rear window piece exactly where we wanted it to meet the rear bow.

 

 

Step-7: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

7Following our chalk marks, we stapled the rear window piece to the rearmost bow, starting in the center, evening out the upper corners of the window, then filling in the unstapled areas in between. These staples will be permanent, so we inserted the normal number of staples instead of a reduced number.

 

 

Step-8: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

8We raised the top and latched it to see if there was any slack at all in the rear window piece. There was, so we pulled down the rear window piece to remove the slack, then marked the body line against the cloth. We then pulled the rear window piece up and marked that body line.

 

 

Step-9: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

9With the rail unbolted and free of the body, you can see those two lines. The difference between those two lines is the amount we need to relocate the rail on the rear window piece. This is why we inserted a reduced number of staples earlier, to minimize the number of staples we’d have to remove to adjust the rail height.

 

 

Step-10: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

10After making sure we took out enough slack and that everything lined up, we secured the window piece to the rail with a full complement of staples.

 

 

 

 

Step-11: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

11Ideally, the new top material should be removed from the packaging well before installation to remove any creases. We quickly tossed it over the frame to check that it would fit properly.

 

 

 

Step-12: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

12Here we have the old, kinked side cable beside the new side cable, already bolted down at the back. A complete convertible top kit should include new side cables, which help prevent wind from getting under the edges of the top.

 

 

Step-13: Well Liner and Rear Window Replacement

13Using a long, coat-hanger-like tool, we pulled the side cable through the pocket for it on the underside of the top. Each end of the cable bolts or screws to a specific place on the top frame.

 

 

 

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Unfortunately, when changing a rear window from plastic to glass, there aren’t any reference points to go by, so you’re left to your best judgment.

We started the next phase of restoration by measuring the rear window piece, then comparing that to the 221 ⁄2 inches we knew we had to work with. We then laid the rear window piece over the rail, with the top of the window piece approximately 221 ⁄2 inches from the rail. We matched the centerlines and stapled the center of the window piece to the rail, then checked the distance of the lower corners of the window to the rail on each side, to make sure they matched up. Once they did, we stapled each side of the window piece to the rail. We popped a few more staples along the length of the rail, but only enough to hold it, perhaps one staple every 2 to 3 inches.

We then placed the entire assembly of the rail, well liner, and rear window onto the Firebird. Before we began to secure the assembly to the car for a trial fit, we unlatched and slightly raised the top frame to give us some slack. We bolted in the rail, then stapled the top of the window piece to the rear bow, making sure to leave the appropriate slack in the window piece. At the same time we made sure to space the top of the window a couple inches away from the rear bow. Confident that the top of the window was an acceptable distance from the rear bow, we trimmed the excess material from the window piece forward of the bow.

After removing the slack from the frame and latching it, we noted a bit of looseness in the window piece. To correct it, we first made a chalk mark all along the width of the window piece where it ducked under the leading edge of the trunk lid. We then pulled the rear window piece tight by pulling it down toward the trunk lid. When we had it pulled tight, we made another chalk mark, again where the material ducked under the trunk lid edge. The second chalk mark thus ended up about 1/2 inch or so above the reference line we initially drew, which told us exactly how far we needed to reposition the window piece on the bolt-in rail.

Repositioning, of course, required unbolting the rail and pulling out the staples we just shot in half an hour before. Most convertible top installations require one or two repositionings, and it’s always a good idea to start with material on the looser side in case it’s necessary to pull it tighter in another repositioning.

We then bolted in the rail to check that we tightened the window piece enough with our adjustments. Confident that we did, we unbolted the rail again to trim the excess material from under the rail and to shoot additional staples into the rail to permanently secure the window piece to the rail.

Fitting the New Top

As long as everything to this point has aligned well, actually fitting the top should be a breeze. We start by laying the top over the top frame, making sure to unlatch the top and lift it slightly to introduce some slack.

Inserting the new side cables through their respective pockets in the sides of the top was the next order of business. We did so using a special tool that resembled a straightened coat hanger with a screwdriver handle on one end and a small rigid hook on the other end. By inserting the tool through the pocket from front to back, we could then attach the leading edge of the side cables to the hook on the end of the tool, pull the cable forward, and then attach the ends of the cable to the convertible top frame.

We also slid the removable bow into the pocket on the underside of the new convertible top and screwed that rail to the convertible top frame. Attaching these loose pieces at this point helped keep the top material in alignment and gave us some slack that we wouldn’t have later on in the installation process.

Unlike the pads under the top material, the convertible top itself anchors at the rear and then pulls forward, so aligning the top to the boltin rail and to the rear window is critical. We saw some faint alignment marks applied by ARO 2000, but wanted to double-check them, so we bolted in the rear rail once again, then centered and aligned the convertible top material over the rear window piece, and marked the inner edge of the convertible top’s window opening on the rear window piece. At the same time, we made sure two creases in the convertible top, located above each corner of the window opening, laid on the rear bow.

Fitting the New Top

Step-1: Fitting the New Top

1Another pocket on the underside of the top material houses the rail that we earlier unbolted from the first bow. This rail prevents the top from billowing up should any wind get underneath the top material.

 

 

 

Step-2: Fitting the New Top

2At the rear of the top, and with the rail still bolted in place, we positioned the two distinct creases in the top material on either end of the rear bow, making sure the window opening perfectly framed the rear window. We then marked both how far down the top material extends and the side-to-side location where we wanted the top to end up.

 

 

Step-3: Fitting the New Top

3Next, we removed the rail and, based on those marks, lightly stapled the top material to the rail. After test fitting the rail, we made any adjustments in the same manner as before, then permanently stapled the top to the rail.

 

 

 

Step-4: Fitting the New Top

4With the top anchored at the rear, we secured the front of the top. We raised the top again and pulled the top material forward, leaving a little slack. We marked the top at the leading edge of the header.

 

 

 

Step-5: Fitting the New Top

5We put the top at the halfway position to make it easier for the next couple of steps, starting with some adhesive sprayed on the underside of the top material and on the header surface to which the top material will mate.

 

 

 

Step-6: Fitting the New Top

6When the adhesive set up, we pulled the top material forward until our chalk marks just crested the lip of the header. We secured the top material in that position with several staples.

 

 

 

 

Step-7: Fitting the New Top

7By pulling the top just far enough forward, the slack in the top disappeared on its own when we latched the top in its up position. No hand-stretching, no pulling, and no damage to the top material.

 

 

 

Step-8: Fitting the New Top

8For the final edge of the top, on the sides just behind the quarter-windows, the top material includes a flap that glues to a flat spot in the top frame. A piece of weather stripping will later screw to this flat spot in the frame.

 

 

 

Step-9: Fitting the New Top

9We then moved to the rearmost bow. Another flap attached to the underside of the top (hidden in this picture by the top itself), which serves to keep water from creeping in between the top material and the rear window piece, needs to be pulled forward and stapled between the top material and the rear bow.

 

 

Step-10: Fitting the New Top

10The new wire-on is then stapled to the rear bow. This simply hides the staples holding the top material to the rear bow. To cover the staples holding the wire-on down, the wire-on was stapled with its presentable side down, and off-center, with most of the wire-on’s width forward of the staple.

 

Step-11: Fitting the New Top

11We then folded the wire-on over on itself and tapped it shut with a hammer. Next, we located the screw holes in the rear bow for the end caps, trimmed the wire-on to length, and screwed down the end caps.

 

 

 

Step-12: Fitting the New Top

12The windlace, a simple piece of cloth folded and stitched over a length of soft cord, was stapled to the underside of the header. With the top up, this windlace simply keeps wind from entering the cabin between the header and the windshield frame.

 

 

 

 

Step-13: Fitting the New Top

13At either end of the windlace, we trimmed the cord to the appropriate length, but did not trim the cloth over the cord. Instead, we folded it over on itself to conceal its own edges, then stapled it to the header.

 

 

 

Step-14: Fitting the New Top

14At this point, we trimmed the edges of the top material away from mounting holes and reinstalled all of the weather stripping pieces we removed earlier.

 

 

 

 

Step-15: Fitting the New Top

15One of the last details involves the well liner, which is both glued and screwed to the rear bulkhead, the structure that the rear seat rests up against. We let the edge of the liner overhang the lip of the bulkhead by a couple inches. We then located the screw holes with an awl and tightened the screws.

 

Step-16: Fitting the New Top

16The top should now be left up for at least a week to sufficiently stretch out. Those wrinkles you see in the middle of the top are actually packaging creases and should smooth out over time, though putting the Firebird in the sun would help stretch out the wrinkles quicker.

 

 

 

 

Once again we unbolted the rail and, following both our alignment marks and the ARO 2000 alignment marks, we stapled the top to the rail, with additional staples—about half a dozen—to secure the two creases at the edges of the top material. As before, we didn’t put too many staples into the convertible top material until after we bolted in the rail to make sure the rear window piece and the convertible top squared up nicely.

On this particular top, everything did indeed square up nicely the first time around, which was a bit unusual. Most times, it takes two or three attempts to get the top adjusted just right. Adjusting the convertible top requires essentially the same process as adjusting the rear window piece: Establish the trim line, pinch the material, mark the distance it needs to extend, then pull the staples and stretch it that distance.

We next turned our attention to the leading edge of the top, still unattached to the header and hanging loosely. We let the header rest atop the windshield, then gently pulled the top material forward, not so that it was taut, rather so that it still hung a bit loose between the bows. We then marked the top material at the leading edge of the header, but didn’t yet begin to secure the material to the header.

Instead, we lifted the top to its halfway position to remove all slack from the material, and sprayed the underside of the top material as well as the underside of the header with contact cement. With the top still in its halfway position, we pulled the material forward until the marks we made just a moment ago rounded the leading edge of the header. We then pressed the two glued surfaces together, always making sure the leading edge of the top material remained parallel to the header. Adding a brace of staples into the tack strip on the underside of the header made sure everything stayed put while the glue dried.

This technique effectively forces the top to stretch itself taut when it is fully up and latched. As long as we pulled the marks just far enough forward of the leading edge of the header, the top won’t end up overly tight or flapping-in-the-breeze loose. And indeed, when we later put the top up and latched it, the material was stretched perfectly.

With the glue gun, we glued down the flaps at the rear of the quarter-window openings directly to the top frame. Once the glue set, we then trimmed the flaps and reattached the sections of weather stripping that screwed into the frame through the flaps.

With the top stretched, we shot a few staples through the top material into the rear bow. We made sure to place a pair of flaps, which prevent water from leaking in between the top material and the rear window piece, between the top material and the rear bow before stapling.

Functionally, these staples help force the rear window to fold as the top goes down; aesthetically, they break up the desired smooth black surface of the top. For that reason, a special strip called a wire-on needs to be stapled to the rear bow next. The wire-on contains a lattice of thin wires that go back and forth between two parallel cords, all covered in the same black fabric as the top material.

We stapled the wire-on belly up and off-center, closer to the rearmost cord than the front cord. Once we stapled it all down, we turned up the rearmost cord forward over the staples, then bent the forward cord back over the rearmost cord and lightly tapped shut the wire-on with a hammer.

Once we had trimmed the wireon to the correct length, we then screwed in the chrome bullets that cap off its ends. And voilà, no staples visible from the outside.

Moving back to the header, we trimmed the excess material ahead of the staples only enough to expose the holes for the weather stripping that we removed earlier. We then stapled one final cord called a windlace to the header. Instead of straight-trimming the ends, we just cut the stitches and removed the cord within the windlace’s sheath past this trimming point, then folded the empty strip of material back on itself and stapled that to the header. We then reinstalled the weather strip piece along the underside of the header.

Our last task for the installation was to attach the leading edge of the well liner to the bulkhead. We glued the liner so that it extended over the front edge of the bulkhead by 1 inch or so, then found the screw holes with an awl and inserted the screws to secure the liner to the bulkhead. The back of the rear seat will then cover the leading edge of the well liner.

Perhaps the most important part of the top installation comes here, at the very end. Whenever they put a new top on, most restorers leave it in the up position for at least a week to stretch it out and seat it to the car. Though the top starts out tight and stiff, after a few days it settles into position on the car. During this time any folds or wrinkles in the top material—left over from its time spent packaged up—relax and give way to a perfectly smooth top.

Oh, and by the way, most professional upholsterers warn owners of convertibles to never store the car with the top down. Doing so can lead the top to shrink, which then leads to an incorrect fitting, and possibly to damage. A convertible with its top stored in the down position also provides a cushy nesting ground for mice.

In all, the removal of the old top and installation of the new top took about 6 hours, including a 1-hour lunch. Some manuals call for about 9 hours for the same job, but having the proper tools, the right workspace, and all the necessary materials will make the job go much quicker.

 

Written by Daniel Strohl and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks

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